December marks the end of one year and the beginning of another. The Solstice is observed and each day extends its light by welcome minutes. It seems to be a reflective time of the year, full of contrasts, such as memory and hope. These reflections are manifested in my ongoing memorial research. This month I have been preoccupied by doors and thresholds, thinking perhaps of those we welcome into our lives and those we lose. The Japanese craft of kintsugi has inspired me as a means to think about damage and repair, how things can be fitted back together, without losing their beauty, even though the wounds are on show. Dark December. Happy New Year!
A long planned research trip to the British Institute of Archaeology in Ankara posed something of a dilemma given that a few days before I was due to leave, Trump, Turkey and conflict along the border with Syria all kicked off. Would going mean I condoned this and it was business as usual or would a seeing/deciding for myself approach be better? After all, Ankara is a long way from the border. In the end, with a cohort of other PhD students, I went. It was an opportunity to discover the archives at BIAA, visit the Antikibar Mausoleum complex and do some sidebar explorations of my own such as to Ulucanlar Prison. This is now a museum which displays information on the many academics, journalists, writers and dissenters who were incarcerated there. I also made some work which addressed the fragility of borders and how 'things' such as peace can be made and unmade. An interesting trip, not without tension but then isn't this what self discovery is about?
For such a small Island, Malta has a lot to offer - especially for those with an interest in history. I was here on holiday but managed to fit in a bit of research including the Siege Bell Memorial in Valletta, St. Angelo's Fort in the Grand Harbour and a tour round the Lascaris War Rooms. All of which served to show that the size of an country is no indicator for the scale of its strategic importance - something which is particularly relevant to Northern Ireland right now. But, still being in holiday mode, and reminded of my trip to Lascaris (central image) I am convinced that there is light at the end of the tunnel!
August should be the height of summer with flowers in full bloom and the fields ripe for harvest. I took a few days out to go to Achill Island and planned to walk , beachcomb and relax - not necessarily in that order! Things go a little differently on the West Coast of Ireland and I spent a bracing few days buffeted by gales, sandblasted on the beach and getting mostly soaked each time I ventured outside. It was worth it though to see the force of nature and the majesty of the Atlantic Ocean. No wonder some fishing boats end up as wrecks, wooden and rusty memorials left to go back into the sands over time. In the studio, I continue to make memorials, conscious of how they might stand the test of time. Above, just one example of making material the metaphor of the fragility of a house of cards. How easily toppled it is, how many things its unbalance could stand for, from the environment to the peace process in Ireland. Leaking boats and driftwood are also under consideration.
Days out, whether at home or abroad, are always made better by encounters with art, history or a combination of the two! This month saw me taking a few days off to explore Bordeaux and to visit La base sous marine - formerly a WW2 U-Boat base and now home to a contemporary art gallery. I was also there to check out the memorial to the Spanish prisoners who were forced to construct the base. (Left Image). On the way back, walking through Chartrons, I chanced upon the last day of a stunning exhibition by Spanish artist Gonzalo Borundo whose installation in a disused church offered not just the usual scale and spectacle, but also detail and depth. (Centre Image). Just as moving, and nearer to home, I went to Dublin and the Irish Museum of Modern Art to catch Doris Salcedo's Acts of Mourning exhibition just before it finished. Shown on the right, a detail from one of the sculptures from the Disremembered series , delicate garments made from silk and pins - the artist's response to loss through gun violence in Chicago. Amazing how something so delicate can be so powerful. All in all, an inspirational month and so I am back in the studio processing , drawing and making - details to follow!
June was quite hectic - busy and enjoyable! Three conferences - Durham, London and Edinburgh , a workshop in Newcastle and the official launch of QSS Studios. Taking a cue from the Kubrick exhibition at the Design Museum in London on the perils of all work and no play (see above!) I also found time to be inspired by David Adjaye's wonderful memorial exhibition , also at the Design Museum and to make new work for the opening night of QSS. Highlight of the month for me was the First World War: Past Present and Future Conference in Edinburgh. I presented a paper which gave an overview of my practice which, for some twenty years, had creatively responded to WW1 through themes of memory, forgetting and commemoration - both public and private. It was a real treat - and very moving - to have the opportunity to explore the Craiglockhart campus and to walk around the grounds where poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon had spent time recovering from shell shock. Beautiful grounds, wonderful literary archive and a fitting way to end the month!
As it's May, and I missed the opportunity to say 'may the fourth be with you!' I am (more seriously) sharing some very early memorial work which I have recently started. For those interested in process, the images above illustrate one way of working. In thinking about concepts for memorial forms, I begin by creating small scale models which are playful experiments in texture and form. Photography and digital manipulation add another layer of thinking (through making) which in turn leads to offshoot ideas and concepts. These in turn, might become drawings which suggest other ways of re-configuring the original 3-D form. It's all about trial and error, experiment/failure and letting the art follow its own path through the research. I will be posting more updates as the work develops and I am excited to see where it goes!
What a great few days away in Copenhagen! I had never been so I had no expectations and no agenda other than to see the famous Gundestrup Cauldron at the National Museum. Photographs can't do it justice, but isn't it wonderful when something you have always wanted to see, and have only known from books is even better in real life? The rest of Copenhagen wasn't so bad either! Back to work now and hope to post some images of my new, tentative memorial designs in next post.
The first signs of Spring, rather than the start of the calendar year, always heralds - for me - signs of growth and personal productivity. This March, the new studio has started to take shape and most boxes and crates are now unpacked! I was delighted to receive - all the way from Australia - my copy of Paul Gough's new book 'Dead Ground' - which features my work alongside other artists, both historic and contemporary, whose practice focuses on war, memorial and ways of remembering from WW1 to the present day. This is a great signpost for my new work which will focus, almost exclusively, on war memorials. Watch this space!
This time of year is traditionally marked by saying goodbye to old things and hello to the new - so in keeping with that tradition, I said goodbye to my much loved studio in December and hello to a fabulous new space in January! I will miss the beautiful arched windows of Bedford Street (left) but the views from my new space, towards Cave Hill and the Shipyard are just as amazing - you will have to take my word for that at the moment! At QSS, we have increased our numbers from 25 artists to 35, and en masse, we have moved to East Belfast. Once I have finished unpacking, I will post some updates!
This is where you will find news about exhibitions, projects, events, other artists, travels, experimental work and sometimes things that I just enjoyed seeing! I hope you enjoy them too!